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The content and information provided within this site is for informational and educational purposes only. Consult a doctor before pursuing any form of therapy, including Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. The Information provided within this site is not to be considered Medical Advice. In Full Support of the F.D.A., Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is considered Investigational, Experimental, or Off Label.

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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy? HBOT

Brief History Of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

  • In 1662, British Physician and Clergyman Henshaw first used compressed air in an attempt to treat pulmonary disease. His first chamber was called the “Domicilium” Chamber pressure was either raised or lowered with organ bellows.
  • Illness from pressure change was first recorded in late 1600’s by physicist and chemist, Robert Boyle.
  • British chemist, Joseph Priestly studied the “Goodness of Air.” He found that plants produced this previously undefined gas which animals consumed. (Oxygen).
  • French Surgeon Fontaine. In 1879, over 20 surgical procedures were preformed in his unit. Deep Surgical anesthesia was possible because of its increased effective percentage accompanied by a higher oxygen partial pressure, which rendered it safer.
  • In 1845, French mining engineer, Triger, described pressure related limb pain, and paralysis in French caisson laborers.
  • In 1878, French Physiologist Paul Bert determined the connection between nitrogen bubbles and decompression sickness. He made several key gas discoveries, Including Central Nervous System Oxygen Toxicity from High Pressure.
  • By 1878, Paul Bert had determined the connection between bends and nitrogen bubbles and showed that pain could be reversed with recompression.
  • In 1908, Haldane published their work along with three sets of tables of time and depth schedules. Most dive tables and computers are currently based on these concepts.
  • In 1928, Cummingham built a 64 foot steel hyperbaric ball with five floors in Cleveland. Later it was scraped for metal during World War II.
  • In 1934, US Naval Submarie Officer, Dr. Albert Behnke proposed using oxygen plus recompression for Decompression Sickness, DCS, which was ignored until 1967.
  • Later in the 1930’s, Dr Edgar End noticed that draft horses working for months in the construction tunnels at pressure died when they were decompressed.
  • In Amsterdam Holland, in 1955, Dutch thoracic surgeon, Dr. Boerma removed the red blood cells from pigs and found they could survive with oxygen dissolved in plasma by use of hyperbaric Oxygen. Dr Boerma had a large operating room-in-a chamber built at the University of Amsterdam.
  • In 1961 Dr. Brummelkamp, University of Amsterdam, Published on the ability of hyperbaric oxygen to inhibit anaerobes- organisms that live where there is low or no oxygen, like gangrene.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a method of administering pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure to a patient in order to improve or correct conditions. Providing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber we are able to deliver 10-15 times more oxygen then if delivered at sea level or at normal atmospheric levels.

Why does HBOT help speed the Healing Process?

Nature has dictated that healing cannot take place without appropriate oxygen levels in the body’s tissues. In many cases, such as those involving circulatory problems, Strokes, anoxic brain injury, and near drowning just to name a few, adequate oxygen cannot reach the damaged area and therefore the body’s natural healing process fails to function properly.

Oxygen given with increased pressure can correct many serious health problems. To provide this increased pressure one must be within a pressurized room, a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber. Oxygen, given at normal atmospheric pressure is insufficient to raise tissue oxygen levels. The answer is to deliver oxygen with a slight increase in pressure with a chamber to raise the oxygen tension above the normal red blood cell saturation.

Why is Oxygen so Important?

Oxygen is a colorless, odorless gas that makes up about 21 percent of the atmosphere. It is essential to life for two reasons:

  • Oxygen is one of the body’s basic building blocks. All of the body’s major components, water, protein, carbohydrate, and fat contain oxygen
  • Oxygen helps bring about certain chemical reactions within the body that result in energy production. Energy is needed for functions such as circulation, respiration, and digestion. Energy is also used to maintain a constant body temperature.

If the body is totally deprived of Oxygen, death results within minutes. A diminished supply of oxygen causes multiple symptoms, some of which are mental disturbances, shortness of breath, and rapid pulse, a fall in blood pressure and cyanosis, a blueness of the skin and mucous membranes. This results in a marked reduction in all bodily functions. This condition is known as hypoxia, or under-oxygenation of the tissues.

How does HBOT force more Oxygen into the bloodstream and tissues?

Blood is made up of three main components: white cells that fight infection, red blood cells that carry oxygen, and plasma, the fluid that carries both kinds of cells throughout the body. Under normal circumstances, only the red blood cells carry oxygen. However, because HBOT forces oxygen into the body under pressure, Oxygen dissolves into all of the body’s fluids, including the plasma, the Lymph, the cerebrospinal fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These fluids can carry the extra oxygen even to areas where circulation is poor or blocked, either by trickling past the blockages or by seeping into the affected area.

This extra oxygen helps in the healing process and enhances the white blood cells’ ability to fight infection. It can promote the development of New Capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that connect arteries to veins. It also helps the body build new connective tissue. In addition, HBOT helps the organs function in a normal manner.

As we age, we can lose vital lung capacity and the ability to effectively obtain adequate Oxygen. Some disease conditions impair oxygen utilization. In addition, with injuries or conditions where there is swelling or edema, this causes pressure within the tissue, which cuts off circulation flow.

For years, conventional medicine thought of HBOT only as a treatment for decompression sickness...

However, this is about to change the scope of medicine as never before. The Use of HBOT is becoming increasingly common in general practice as more doctors become acquainted with new applications. Doctors now realize that HBOT has other uses, including the treatment of non-healing wounds, Carbon Monoxide poisoning, various infections, damage caused by radiation treatments, near- drowning, near-hanging, brain and nerve disorders, cardiovascular disorders; and some digestive system disorders.

It is important to realize that, in most cases, HBOT is best used when combined with other treatments such as physical therapy and or surgery.

In the USA, the situation stands in marked contrast with many other countries, where HBOT is used for a much wider range of conditions. Multiple Sclerosis patients have banded together in Britain to create their own network of Hyperbaric Chambers. Centers in China treat more than 100,000 patients each year for a multitude of conditions.

Hyperbaric Oxygen is very cost effective.

  • HBOT is non-invasive.
  • HBOT is safe.
  • HBOT works well with other treatments.

Brain Injury and Recovery with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Dr Philip James

Hyperbaric Oxygen simply means oxygen given at increased barometric pressure...

The Problem

  • The complex and almost continuous electrical activity of the brain is so discreet that we are unaware that it is the mechanism behind communication and thus intellectual and motor function.
  • Brain injury can lead to a blockage of the electrical pathways.
  • Depending on the location of the injury, the brain's attempts to re-route through blocked pathways may cause frustrated discharges of activity known as seizures.

What Causes the Blockage?

SPECT scans (computerized brain mapping) show that not only does brain injury produce cell death, but also reduces essential blood flow to a wider area of brain tissue surrounding the dead cells where signal re-routing might be expected to take place.

How Does This Happen?

  • After brain injury, many blood capillaries around the area of cell death become torn open
  • The liquid part of the blood (the plasma) then leaks out causing a swelling that may be very extensive.
  • This reduces cerebral blood flow in the affected areas
  • Reduction in blood flow means a reduction of essential nutrition (most vitally oxygen), and a build up of waste products from local biochemical reactions (e.g. lactate and calcium), which shut down normal cell function and further block pathways

Why Doesn't Capillary Healing Happen?

  • If the capillaries are to heal, they desperately need oxygen.
  • Unfortunately, the tiny tubules leading to the torn capillaries become constricted because of the damage.
  • This means that the Red Blood Cells needed to bring the healing oxygen are too big to get through and simply get stuck in the "pipes."
  • Thus the plasma that is normally very low in oxygen continues to pour out, maintaining the swelling with all its attendant problems which, if left unattended, would last for years, even an entire life time

The New Growth Factor?

In recent years, our understanding of the intercellular communication of healing has increased considerably. Cells within a wound receive a myriad of signals from their environment, the sum of which governs the activity of a cell. The term "cytokine" is applied to those substances, which function as cellular signals. Growth factors are a subclass of cytokines that specifically stimulate the proliferation of cells. This stimulation may occur through several different mechanisms. For example, some growth factors have activities that attract fibroblasts and inflammatory cells, some act as mitogens, stimulating cell division, and some effect the production and degradation of the extra-cellular matrix. All of these phenomenons are the result of a cytokine (growth factor) signaling the cell nucleus to produce proteins, which account for the observed activities. A clear understanding of growth factor physiology carries the promise of clinical advances in wound management. Currently one cytokine, Platelet Derived Growth Factor, is in clinical use for the management of problem wounds. As our knowledge of these substances expands, other growth factors will be added to our clinical armamentarium for the management of non-healing wounds.

Non-healing wounds can also be managed by optimizing the metabolic requirements of healing e.g. protein, trace elements, and oxygen. The most frequent common denominator in non-healing wounds is inadequate tissue oxygenation, which impairs healing and host defenses. Correction of such hypoxia by means of revascularization or hyperbaric oxygen therapy results in healing for most patients. Conventional wisdom suggests that oxygen is just a metabolite and therefore healing, in these circumstances, is simply a reflection of having sufficient oxygen to meet the energy demands of wound repair. However, some exciting evidence is now emerging to suggest that oxygen serves a dual role as both a metabolite and a growth factor. The conceptualization of oxygen as a growth factor has considerable relevance to the field of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The idea of oxygen acting as a cell signal has already been established in the setting of hypoxia. As an example, gene expression for erythro-protein production is largely proportional to the pO2 level in the kidney. It has been proposed that cells in a non-healing wound may respond to hyperbaric therapy because the supra-physiologic elevation of tissue oxygen serves as a trigger signaling that enough oxygen is in the environment to proceed with normal healing. Subsequent daily exposure to the threshold oxygen level reinforces this signal and results in gene expression of the protein building blocks required for healing. Teleologically, it makes sense for cells to conserve resources until the environmental signals are strong enough and consistent enough to activate the cell nucleus and begin the healing process.

Two separate groups of investigators have published findings that support this concept of oxygen as a growth factor. Following a single one-hour exposure to hyperbaric oxygen, Hehenberger, et al. (1997) demonstrated a dose dependent stimulation of normal in vitro fibroblasts with a peak increase in cell proliferation at 2.5 ATA O2. The dose-dependent effect of a single 1-hour exposure to oxygen suggests a pharmacologic effect of oxygen on cells, as opposed to an increased metabolic availability of oxygen. These findings suggest, therefore, that a single brief exposure to hyperbaric oxygen on a daily basis provides a strong initiating signal for the intracellular events that culminate in cell proliferation, while sustained hyperoxia has the opposite effect.

In a study of in vitro fibroblast proliferation using tritium labeled thymidine, Tompach, et al., found that a single dose of HBO (2.4 ATA for 120 minutes) produced a sustained stimulation of fibroblasts for 72 hours. If a second exposure to HBO was given on the same day there was no additional increase in cell proliferation. Similarly, cultured endothelial cells remained stimulated for 72 hours following a single 15-minute exposure to HBO. Again, these findings suggest that we must reconsider oxygen as being more than just a metabolite.

This new paradigm of oxygen as a growth factor is consistent with the clinical observation that a BID dosing of HBO appears to offer no clear benefit over a QD dosing schedule for the treatment of chronic wounds. As our understanding of oxygen physiology increases, we will be in a better position to determine the optimal dosing of oxygen in both its metabolic and stimulatory roles.


  1. Siddiqui A, Davidson JD, Mustoe TA. Ischemic tissue oxygen capacitance after hyperbaric oxygen therapy: A new physiologic concept. Plast Reconstr. Surg 1997; 99:148-69.
  2. Hehenberger K, Brismar K, Folke L, Gunnar K. Dose-dependent hyperbaric oxygen stimulation of human fibroblast proliferation. Wound Rep Reg 1997;5:147-50.
  3. Hehenberger K, Brismar K, Folke L, Gunnar K. Dose-dependent hyperbaric oxygen stimulation of human fibroblast proliferation. Wound Rep Reg 1997;5:147-50.

“HBOT can provide an important weapon in the fight against numerous disorders. The more you know about HBOT the better prepared you’ll be to understand your medical options”

(Dr. Richard Neubauer, M.D.,”Hyperbaric Oxygen Medicine”)

"From a public health perspective, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, universally applied to our health care system, will be not only cost effective, it will save billions of dollars, untold suffering, and restore lives. The application to neurological injuries, alone, will give patients, parents, and society new hope for those they believed were lost. Its further application to all areas where oxygen deprivation contributes to injury will make this therapy universal in application."

Dr. William A. Duncan